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Each month we will be helping you get to know our partners and their projects a little better with our Partner Spotlight posts. The first in our Education series is our super cool partner, Empower Playgrounds. They are based in Ghana and harness kinetic energy from school playgrounds to power LED lamps, which the children can then take home after school to study. Told you they were cool. We caught up with them, shot them a few questions, and here’s what they had to say about who they are, what they do, and why you should get involved in our Give Together program and donate to their project.

What is the inspiration behind your organization?

The inspiration behind Empower Playgrounds is that there is energy all around us, everyday, and if captured, this energy can empower tomorrow’s leaders and light their way towards achieving their fullest potentials. 

What’s the story behind your project?

Empower Playgrounds Inc (EPI) was started after our founder, Ben Markham, and his wife, Julie, who lived in Ghana for 18 months as humanitarian missionaries. While here, Ben often held meetings in rural school houses and noticed how dark it got early in the evenings and wondered how students were able to study or read in their homes with such conditions. He was also struck by the simplicity of play equipment available to children, usually nothing more than old bike tires and tin cans that would be turned into rudimentary cars. Ben decided to try and solve both of these problems and developed the electricity-generating merry-go-round we use today. 

Kinetic merry-go-round

How did you become connected with Jolkona

EPI’s executive director, Chris Cannon, was in Seattle visiting NGOs and social ventures with a group of MPA students from Brigham Young University when he learned about the innovative fundraising and advocacy work Jolkona was doing. And after talking with Nadia he quickly decided that this was a partnership worth pursuing and that he hoped would help EPI fulfill its mission of providing the light of opportunity to students of Ghana.

Can you tell us a bit more about your project and how it’s going currently?

Empower Playgrounds is currently operating in nearly 40 schools, providing light to over 6,000 students in some of Ghana’s most deprived areas. We continue to gain support from individuals concerned about the quality of education students are receiving in these deprived areas and by groups working to provide similar opportunities. We are hopeful that this year will see wider expansion, both within Ghana and to similar countries, as we gain more momentum and work with a tried and tested system and wonderful corporate partners like Goal Zero and Playworld Systems, Inc. 

What kind of lasting change does the project hope to engender?

Our vision for the future is to have educated parents, especially mothers, in every village who will instill a love of learning in their children. This next generation of children will be much better suited to tackle the generational triggers of poverty and inequality that we as outsiders are often unable to define or solve. We are beginning to see this change take place in some of our earliest schools in the form of increased school completion, attendance, and national test scores. 

So say I give $50 to the project, can you explain a little further the impact that is achieved?

For $50 you provide a group of students a portable LED lantern powered by play! This lantern will provide 40 hours of reading and study time with each charge and is expected to last around 5 years, meaning that they are ensured the light of opportunity for just $10 per year!

Ghanaian students

We love stories at Jolkona. Do you have a favorite impact story you can share?

One of our students, Gabriel, is just one example of how hard students are working to rise above adverse conditions and better themselves in order to better their communities. At 16 Gabriel is the oldest student in his 6th grade class, towering above his classmates and even some of his teachers, however his meek demeanor shines in his bright eyes and constantly beaming smile. This same smile is somewhat out of place when he starts talking about his life and the conditions he struggles with everyday.

He has lived alone in the tiny village of Terhey for several years after his parents moved away to look for work, taking with them his younger siblings. His weekends and evenings are spent doing odd jobs in order to provide for himself: cutting wood for charcoal, helping local farmers, fixing bicycles. And what he earns from these odd jobs he often sends to his siblings so they can buy books and pay for school uniforms, leaving himself to rely on the generosity of his favorite teacher.

Gabriel is now in middle school, still older than his classmates but at least now the same height, and well on his way towards High School. He is a success in the village of Terhey because he is a trendsetter in a community that often sees little use for school and its postponed payoff when so many competing needs have such immediacy. He is one of the lights shining in darkness that makes Ghana such a trailblazer in West Africa.

Such a great story. So, in a nutshell, why should someone give to this project?

With so many organizations and nonprofits doing good things, it’s often hard to choose between so many good options. At EPI we strive to be among the best. We do this by maintaining focus on a single cause – one that we feel is at the root of so many other problems. 

With a generation of educated people Ghana will be filled with home-grown solvers and thinkers who can tackle the difficult problems that plague so many developing countries, resulting in long-lasting and effective change that will benefit the world.

Sign up or sign in to Give Together and donate to Empowerment Playground. Empower tomorrow’s leaders and light their way towards achieving their fullest potentials today.

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Let’s start off this post with a cartoon:

educational-system-comic

This cartoon brilliantly illustrates two points about the American Educational System:

1) Treating every student the same does not create an equal playing field,

and

2) bridging the Opportunity Gap doesn’t require a change from students, but a change from the educational system itself.

The Penguin and the Fish

Expecting a penguin and a fish to climb a tree is just as a preposterous as thinking that treating every child the same creates equal opportunity. Fun fact: it doesn’t, it actually does the opposite. Treating every student the same doesn’t factor in the amount of Cultural Capital every child brings into the classroom. Bluntly stated, if you don’t help the children who are already behind, you are subscribing to a front row seat to their failure. Students who aren’t given the extra help they need will most likely fall behind, while their counterparts will succeed because they can keep up with the material that is being taught. Treating every student the same will only reinforce the already unequal education practices the U.S. already has in place.

What Needs to Change?

On that grim note, there is hope. In order for real change to occur in our biased and unequal education system, change needs to come from the top. The educational institution itself must change in order for all students to have the same opportunities as their neighbor.  Although I fully recognize that what I’m stating is much easier said than done, if America wants to truly offer the American dream to every American, our educational institution has to change.

If you want to help students who are behind in school both in the U.S. and abroad, check out these two projects:  TAF (Technology Access Foundation) is helping close the digital divide for students who don’t have access to computers and the internet. If you want to help globally, check out our project that is helping students in India get an education they deserve. If you want to support any other of Jolkona’s projects, check out Give Together.

 You can keep up with everything Jolkona by following us on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram!

 

 

 

 

 

Give Together is live! And our opening feature issue is Education1005044_10151427376962396_1217417665_n

We have three projects that significantly help both teachers and students internationally move towards a brighter future. Give Together today, choosing your favorite project and pooling your contributions with others who share your same interests.

Here is an introduction to our featured projects:

Empower Burmese Women to Become Effective Teachers

Educational Empowerment supports education in SE Asia, especially in Myanmar. A third of children in the country are unable to access education at all, and 70% of those who do never move beyond primary school. Educational Empowerment has made it their goal to fix this deficit by providing training and educational materials to teachers (90% of whom are women) in poverty stricken communities in Myanmar.

This project not only enhances the education of young children, providing them greater opportunities in the future, but it also empowers the women who teach, allowing them to be more effective in the classroom, and prepare them better for their careers. Both teachers and children face poverty and unequal opportunity. The $250 fundraising goal for Educational Empowerment will purchase the necessary materials to contribute to the essential development of primary school children, and allow their teachers to become confident  role models.

Providing Play-Powered Lanterns for Rural Students in Ghana

Empower Playgrounds, Inc. is an innovative company that installs playground equipment for schools in Ghana, which charge special lanterns that students can take home with them after school to study. In most villages in Ghana, there isn’t a reliable source of power. The village of Ahiatroga, is no different. This makes it difficult for students to continue their education outside of the classroom, which is essential for increasing the quality of their education.

The $500 fundraising goal will install a merry-go-round for Ahiatroga’s school, charging portable LED lanterns for students to take home and study with. Empower Playgrounds, Inc. has already installed 40 of these innovative merry-go-rounds, benefitting almost 10,000 students in Ghana. Donate today, and add the students of Ahiatroga to this growing number.

Fund the Education of Underserved Students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

The Technology Access Foundation (TAF) is an organization in King County, Washington, that is working on improving the STEM education for communities of color, better equipping underserved students to enter college, and helping them pursue careers in fields of science and technology. Their summer program provides camps focused on a number of topics, such as robotics, aviation and design. The students attend a field trip, and present their work at the end of the session.

The fundraising goal of 2 scholarships at $350 will allow some of the highest need students from White Center Washington, where as many as 82% of students qualify for free or reduced lunches, to have an in-depth, and hands on experience with a STEM field of their interest. The summer program will supplement their education, preparing them for college and science and tech based career.

Donate today, and use Give Together to pick one of these organizations and improve education worldwide!

You can help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on TwitterPinterest, and Instagram.

April 22nd is Earth Day, a day to appreciate our planet, and become a little more environmentally friendly. It was established in 1970, to celebrate the passage of the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Air act among others. For me, it is an event that I remember fondly as a child, as it always had special emphasis. In elementary school, my teachers always impressed the importance of the environment, taking Earth Day to teach us about cleaning up litter, or ways that we could reduce waste in our day-to-day lives. I even remember a reusable shopping bag my parents had – a canvas affair with a picture of the earth, and neon pink text saying ‘EARTH DAY,’ urging us to reduce, reuse and recycle.

However, this was just a few years away from the sudden realizations of climate change – how serious an issue it was, and how little time we had to rectify our mistakes. While Earth Day will still be a time when many will connect with others in their community to pick up trash, plant trees, and celebrate the planet, it should also be used as a time to understand the true impacts of deforestation, the loss of arable land and climate change. In the same way that my interactions as a child with Earth Day had an important personal impact on me, climate change has a significant impact on individuals worldwide, human or otherwise.

Earth Day 2013 is about the Face of Climate Change, a campaign, which means to show that climate change isn’t a matter of government policy, or of glaciers melting in far away places. It is an issue that impacts farmers and fishermen, who deal with droughts and declining fish populations, and the people displaced due to the increasing frequency and intensity of hurricanes and other natural disasters. It also impacts animals suffering from habitat loss whether it is from human activity, or rising temperatures. The Face of Climate Change project accumulates photographs of people, animals, and environments that have experienced the negative effects of the changing planet. It also documents the efforts of individuals, like you, or my elementary school teachers, who work to fight climate change, and improve the planet for all beings.

 

One organization and Jolkona partner making a difference for the environment is Trees for the Future. They approach environmental sustainability, responsible farming practices, forest recovery, and providing opportunities for farmers all over the world in one fell swoop, by planting trees and training communities in agroforestry. A donation of $5 provides the fund to plant 50 trees, an astounding amount. And, Trees for the Future has a presence in a number of countries from Burundi to Brazil, and from Ethiopia to Cameroon.

Working with Trees for the Future provides an incredible amount of impact, especially for Earth Day 2013. Planting trees and teaching sustainable agroforestry to communities directly helps some of the people most affected by Climate Change. In addition, the sheer number of trees planted from each donation works to restore canopies, and scrub excess carbon dioxide from the environment. Not only can you reduce your own carbon footprint, you can help communities affected by deforestation, soil loss, and the loss of livelihood. On this planet, everyone is a Face of Climate Change, and we can all do our part. In honor of Earth Day 2013, donate today, and spread trees all over the world.

You can also help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter,  Pinterest, and Instagram.

Sunday, April 7th is World Health Day, celebrating the anniversary of the foundation of the World Health Organization in 1948. It is a day to bring attention to the significant global health issues that impact people all over the world, and a day to donate to a project through Jolkona, that will improve the health of individuals, and of a community.

This year’s theme of World Health Day is cardiovascular disease (CVD), and high blood pressure.  CVD (including high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure) is the leading causes of death and disability world wide, representing 30% of global deaths (17.3 million people). In fact, as cause of death, it is far more common in developed countries than it is in undeveloped countries. So this year, in honor of World Health Day, we are asking you to think locally by taking action to reduce your own risk for CVD, whilst also acting globally by working to alleviate health concerns that under-empowered people face, such as malnutrition and poor sanitation.

You can be sure to lower your risk of CVD and other related non-communicable diseases by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Here are some key ways to protect heart health.

  • Avoid excessive tobacco use, physical inactivity, and an unhealthy diet.
  • 30 minutes of physical activity every day of the week.
  • Eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables, as well as limiting the amount of salt to less than a teaspoon a day.

Find out more about CVD at the WHO

While you take steps to improve your health, remember that CVD is a global epidemic, and disproportionately affects the developing world.

  • 80% of people who die from non-communicable diseases live in low or middle-income countries.
  • Low birth weight, folate deficiency, infections and poor nutrition are risk factors for non-communicable diseases that significantly impact people in developing countries.
  • People in developing countries are usually unable to access the resources needed to effectively diagnose and treat their disease.
  • The lifestyle changes associates with industrialization and urbanization, such as a sedentary lifestyle, and increased alcohol and tobacco use increase the risk of CVD in developing countries.
  • Premature deaths due to CVD reduce the GDP of low and middle-income countries by as much as 6.8%, resulting in a heavy burden on rapid economic development*

*Statistics taken from WHO’s CVD Factsheet

While maintaining a healthy heart is certainly important, you can also impact global health by donating to a project that benefits under-empowered communities who face pressing health crises due to malnutrition or disease.

  • Donate $100 through the Mali Health Organizing Project to provide a year of high-impact health care for 10 people living in slum neighborhoods in Mali. Your donation enrolls families in a comprehensive healthcare program through a local clinic. The program provides home visits to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases quickly and effectively, educating communities about healthcare, and reducing child mortality.
  • Donate $40 through Friends of Orphans, to provide a month’s worth of fresh seasonal produce for an orphan in Mexico. The children receive a balanced diet, which aids in physical development, and prevent micronutrient deficiencies.
  • Donate $260 through the Pardada Pardadi Educational Society to build a hygienic and environmentally friendly toilet in the poorest parts of rural India. This allows people, especially women, to perform bodily functions in safety and privacy, while reducing contact with waste, which causes 80% of preventable disease in rural communities.

Spend April 7th making the world a little bit healthier. Make changes to your lifestyle to prevent cardiovascular disease, and lengthen your life, and reach out to a community that faces a pressing health crisis. Think locally and act globally on World Health Day.

Spread awareness about global health via social media: like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and re-pin our pins on Pinterest.

 

Is a leader strongest on her own, or as part of a global community? Can you yourself produce the greatest good by sending information and resources one way, or is there much more to be gained through collaboration, and partnership? As you invest in providing training and vital networking to a woman already changing her local community, what can you learn from such an inspiring person?

One of the central themes of the Give2Girls campaign is that investing in women makes an incredible difference, as, on average, they return 90% to their families, children, and community. There are so many projects that positively impact women throughout the world. iLEAP’s International Fellowship Program takes an innovative approach to that idea, by empowering local women, and giving them the tools they need to be local and global leaders.

The mission of iLEAP is to create global transformation through inspiring and engaging social leaders across the world. With a network of non-profits, business, universities, and other associations linking the US, Latin America, Asia, and Africa, their training programs aim to collaborate with leaders, create regional networks, and international partnerships. The programs emphasize hands on learning so participants can work directly with the leaders in their field. They connect people in a range of sectors, ranging from global health, and human rights to education and sustainable agriculture.

The Program

As part of the International Fellowship Program, 10 to 15 Women grassroots leaders from across Asia, Latin America, and Africa are selected from a highly competitive pool to come to Seattle, WA, and attend a rigorous and comprehensive 8-week leadership training program.

  • The training includes courses on topics like communication, technology and management.
  • Helps them to build a network of local businesses and NGOs and other development organizations in their area of interest.
  • Women learn about the interactions between NGOs, business and government agencies.
  • Whilst honing their skills through the program, the women also have the opportunity to become involved in Seattle’s community, and make personal connections.
  • They live with a home-stay family, attend events, and are sponsored by local organizations that work in the same area of interest so they can exchange ideas.

Why the program is important

Empowering women as leaders is vital to the UN Millennium Development goals of promoting gender equality, and encouraging global partnerships. Women bear the brunt of global poverty, due to gaps in income and education, as well as violence, and maternal mortality. Women leaders in developing countries are already taking steps to address these issues and lead the improvement in their communities. iLEAP’s fellowship provides these women with more in depth training and an international network of partners and mentors, so that they can continue their work more effectively, and with renewed inspiration.

The Give2Girls campaign is all about investing in girls and women, to create a better world tomorrow, and iLEAP’s International Fellowship Program is an incredible opportunity for determined and talented women grassroots leaders to network internationally, increase the impact of their work in their own communities, and become global citizens. Through amazing donations, Give2Girls has been fully funded, but a donation will still make an incredible difference. $100 provides the weekly stipend for a Fellow to stay in Seattle, and participate in the program. As a result, each graduate leaves with practical skills, and a global community of support. In turn, they contribute to sustainable social change.

You can also be a part of the Give2Girls movement by helping to spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter (#give2girls), and Pinterest

 

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it is easy to get excited about the great food and good times ahead, but it is also one of the most important times of the year to give. As a youth during the holiday season, my parents, along with people at my church and school, took the time to donate canned goods and money to various food drives.

Jolkona works with a multitude of projects year-round to eradicate hunger world wide, but for this special time of need we have created a compilation of some of these projects–and our very own holiday food drive.

Feeding into the Holidays: Give thanks and give back.

You Can Help

Provide Healthy Meals to Ugandan Children– Due to an increase in commodity costs, the price of a meal in Uganda has risen drastically. Through our partner, the Children of Uganda, your donation of just $55 will be used to feed a child for an entire week. You will help give children regular meals of rice, beans, and posho, a kind of porridge made with maize which is supplemented with vegetables, fruit, eggs and beef when available.

Give Fresh Produce to Children in School in Ecuador 40 percent of the Ecuadorian population consists of children ages 17 and under–and 70 percent of those kids and adolescents live in poverty according to UNICEF. Help our partner, Ecuador Children’s Hope Organization, ensure that kids in school receive the nutrients they need by giving them fresh produce. Your small gift of $65 will provide 300 children with fruits and vegetables for a week. By giving up a little, you will help hundreds gain so much.

Feed a Hungry Family in NicaraguaMADRE, an international women’s human rights organization that has partnered with Jolkona since 2009, has put together a project to give women in Nicaragua a gift that keeps on giving: gardening knowledge and tools. For just $50 you can give one woman the chance to grow food for her family by providing organic seeds. With their own gardens, women in Nicaragua can provide continuously for their families. Give today and help for months to come.

Build an Energy Efficient Stove for a Nepali Family More than 82 perfect of all Nepali households rely on firewood as a source of power; however, in the high altitudes of the country, trees grow slowly, and individuals must travel further and further each day as trees that can’t grow back quick enough are chopped away. With only $40 you can help families spend more time productively, and less time searching for firewood by helping build a full stove. Your gift will contribute good meals and some ease of comfort through our partner, Himalayan Healthcare. Instead of giving food for a week, help a family create nutritious meals for years to come.

Share What You Have

Most of us enjoy great food and treats throughout the holiday season, whether it is just one day of turkey, or a daily seasonal latte to help shake off the cool weather. However you enjoy this time, it is important to remember to help others find joy in these special days, and all throughout their lives.

Like Jolkona on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and check us out on Pinterest to keep up with all of our ongoing projects.

As a recent college graduate, I understand how important proper employment training is. The US economy has created a dog-eat-dog competition style in the job market where every ounce of experience and knowledge is incredibly valuable.

That’s why I have created a campaign with the goal of assisting at least 10 students in getting a month’s worth of various employment education classes in order to help increase their chances of getting a job after graduation.

Students are constantly being reminded about how tough the job market will be for them after graduation by the press, educators, peers and parents. Action needs to be taken now to support students and lift them up in an economy threatening to tear them down.

What You Can Do

Prepare Kids in USA to Become Employable Adults–The poor job market and status of the United States’ economy is a highly debated topic that is not likely to disappear anytime soon. Regardless of one’s opinion on how to best turn the economy around, it is clear that too many Americans are out of work.

Soccer in the Streets, who has partnered with Jolkona since 2010, conducts a project titled School of Life, which teaches the country’s youth about resume building, employment preparation, community service and much more.

The organization started in 1989 and has since positively influenced the lives of over 125,000 people. It is a member of the United Soccer Collaborative in the United States, and streetfootballworld internationally.

By giving a gift of just $25 to Soccer in the Streets School of Life program, you will help one student gain the skills needed to become employable upon graduation. A month’s worth of supplies will be provided to the School of Life program in order to help teach these skills.

Do Even More

For $150, you can provide a student with six months of life skill training programs and empower their future.

To help further, your gift of $300 will be used to sponsor a student in life skills training programs for an entire year, after which you will receive a video from the student describing all of their successes.

Let’s make good jobs a reality in our youths’ futures, not a dream.

The Bigger Picture

Although there seems to be nothing more important to some Americans than landing a good job during this time of economic disarray, this project contributes to a larger cause: achieving the United Nation’s goal of eradicating hunger and poverty by 2015.

With your small gift, you can help the UN reach this huge end by making sure our youth has the means to support themselves in the future, while influencing younger generations to give back to their communities.

Learn more about Soccer in the Streets by checking out its website, following them on Twitter, or liking them on Facebook.

By learning and teaching others about this amazing program, we can work to lower future unemployment rates–without relying on empty campaign promises. Take action for tomorrow today, right now.

Help my campaign, Jolkona and the UN accomplish our goals of creating a better future by giving to our youth.

Like Jolkona on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and check us out on Pinterest to keep up with all of our ongoing projects.

My brother almost died when he was a new-born. Though healthy at birth, it soon became apparent that he was having serious problems. Increasingly emaciated and severely dehydrated, he was suffering from chronic diarrhea. As a result, lactose – the one thing he relied on almost more than anything – could not be digested. The diarrhea got worse and worse; he grew thinner and thinner.

Biologically speaking, this is what was happening to him: diarrhea is brought about when the mechanism controlling fluid balance in the intestine is disturbed. The most common causes of this are toxins secreted by bacteria, or damage to the lining of the bowel by bacteria. My brother was experiencing the latter due to a bout of gastroenteritis. As a result, his body was releasing excessive amounts of essential fluids – water and electrolytes. The loss of these fluids was literally draining the life out of him. The electrolyte imbalance could well have begun to damage his kidneys and cause his heart to beat irregularly. Untreated this would have killed him.

For a while my parents weren’t sure if he would live. We were living in Morocco at the time, where healthcare is nowhere near the quality most of us have access to. However, in the end, they were able to diagnose the problem and treat it with a simple fluid replacement program. My brother’s life was saved. He now lives in Leicester in the UK, is married, and is training to become a doctor. He also happens to be one of my best friends and one of the kindest and most gentle people you’ll ever meet.

My brother lived. Millions of other children don’t. UNICEF estimates that number to be around 1.5 million annually.

Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death for children under 5 globally.

Bringing the Global to the Personal

If you follow my posts for Jolkona, you’ll know I have a penchant for telling personal anecdotes. I do this for a reason. Statistics are harrowing, yes. 1.5 million children is as incomprehensible as it is sickening. But I’m of the mind that you cannot measure suffering on the scale of figures. Suffering is suffering, for 1.5 million mothers as it is for one. So I share these parts of my life with you because I want you to understand that it’s the people behind the statistic who matter. It is they who suffer, who die, who mourn.

At Jolkona we want to invite you into the stories behind the statistics. So today I’m inviting you into the stories of children in India. Give $10 to save one child from diarrhea and we’ll send you the discharge certificate of the child whose treatment you provided. Even better, this month we’re running our Give Health matching campaign so we’ll double your donation and send you a second discharge certificate.

For the price of less than a movie ticket you save two lives. Two families spared from tragedy and suffering. Two stories you become a part of. It is a beautiful thing.

I care about this project because I am thankful that my family had access to the simple medical care that saved my brother’s life, and because I believe it is a terrible injustice that a child should die of something so banal, something so easily treatable as diarrhea. Give to this project. Give Health today.

You can also support this project by coming to our Socializing For Social Change event on Thursday July 26th. Tickets costs $10, the total of which goes to one of three global health projects of your choice. Saving a child from diarrhea is one of them.

Follow our campaign and its impact via our Give Health campaign page, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Tweet using the #givehealth hashtag.

 

During our recent trip to Bangladesh we visited Greenovation Technologies – a small social enterprise that was founded by 4 fresh graduates from Dhaka University. An inventor, Dr. Mahbubul Khan, is also involved with the startup. Greenovation Technologies is trying to commercialize one of Dr. Khan’s inventions, called jutin. Jutin is created by combining jute with resin. Alternating layers of jute and resin are placed together. Between each layer or jute and resin a special “glue” (invented and patented by Dr. Khan) is added. The more number of layers there are the stronger the final jutin sheet is. The entire stack is than placed outside in the sun and allowed to bake for 20 minutes. The resulting material is called jutin.

 

Greenovation Technolgies team with one of their model homes made from jutin.

Jutin is more durable than tin, lasting for almost 20 years. The team expects jutin to be cheaper than tin, once economies of scale is achieved. The team also believes jutin can be a great alternative to other building materials, especially those used for cheap construction. There are millions of families in Bangladesh who live in very weak structures made from low-quality tin or hay. Greenovation Technologies believes that jutin will make a far better alternative for such homes, being cheaper and stronger and hopefully, therefore, far more sustainable. They are passionately focused on making that happen.

However, the team faces significant challenges:

  1. Lack of funding. The team has very little capital. They have taken part in business competitions and have done very well. However, the winnings from these competitions are not enough to offset the full cost of setting up a production service. This issues effects all the other issues below as well.
  2. The need to do more research. The team needs to do more research into the long-term effects of jutin. Jutin contains resin (a polymer). The team needs to find out the environmental effects of its long-term presence.
  3. Find the quickest way to scale. The team wants to set up a manufacturing plant to create jutin sheets. However, that is a extremely risky undertaking, especially for a team with little capital and no experience in manufacturing. They will be looking at other options like licensing the technology to other existing manufacturers.

Greenovation Technologies serves as a great example to all of us that the social entrepreneurship journey is filled with challenges and setbacks. Like other social entrepreneurs, this team has to prove that they have the resilience and the creativity to overcome these problems.

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In 1969 an oil platform off the Californian coast of Santa Barbara blew out, unleashing a ghastly environmental nightmare. A nation stood appalled and watched as an entire ecosystem drowned in the toxic filth of crude oil. Out of the horror of its aftermath, and in an effort to bring a greater social consciousness of environment protection, Earth Day was born and first celebrated on April 22nd 1970.

42 years later the environmental issues that plague this planet rage ever louder, but so too does the crusading Earth Day. This Sunday, April 22nd, is Earth Day 2012.

What is it about?

The Earth Day Network connects with over 22,000 partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify, and mobilize the environmental movement. On Sunday over 1 billion people will voice their love and appreciation for this planet whilst demanding for its protection. It is a campaign designed to provide people with the opportunity to unite in their call for a sustainable future, directing them toward quantifiable outcomes. One of those quantifiable outcomes is the Billion Acts of Green project. Yes, that’s one billion not one million.

A Billion Acts of Green

This mother of all projects encourages individuals, organizations, businesses and governments to support the campaign by performing environmental actions, such as biking to work, picking up garbage off the street, or planting a tree. The goal is to reach one billion actions by the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012. The accomplishment will be presented at the Rio +20 Conference to be used as a lever addressing the UN’s inaction and inspiring leaders to reach a global agreement.

What can I do?

Simple: pledge any act of green you can think of and let the people at Earth Day know here. At Jolkona we have 16 partners that are directly involved in environmental protection. With $5 your donation plants trees in countries from the Philippines, through India, Senegal, to Haiti. With $10 your donation teaches youth in Costa Rica about water conservation. With $24 your donation conserves rainforests in Tanzania. With $40 your donation builds a fuel efficient stove for a family in Nepal. With $100 your donation trains environmental youth advocates in Kenya.

Go to our projects page and select ‘Environment’ under the ‘Projects’ column to view all the appropriate projects. Join us and a billion others in the call and pledge to protect our planet Earth.

For more information, resources, and ideas go to the Earth Day website.

Follow and share the movement on Facebook and Twitter.

Tweet using the #earthday hashtag.

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Report on Girls’ Education in India

Note from the Editor: this report is written by Daljit Singh, Jolkona Office Manager intern, a graduate in political science from the University of Washington.

photo credit: Flickr, Simon Tucker Photographs

Education is a basic human right that should be exercised fully in all nations, but for many girls in India, attending school is not an option. A girl’s education is an essential starting point in establishing equality everywhere. Despite the Indian Constitution guaranteeing equality before the law and non-discrimination on the basis of sex, India remains a patriarchal society. Male inheritance and property ownership, early marriage, dowry, honor crimes, lack girls’ education, witch hunting, violence against women, and trafficking are all serious issues in the country. There are schools, but most girls do not attend, often because of religious reasons or cultural pressures.

A study conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau states that three out five girls receives primary education versus three out four boys. There should not be differences in the numbers of such a basic, universal human right. The law of the land makes it clear that both boys and girls have an equal opportunity to attend school from the age of six through fourteen, and that primary education is a fundamental right (Indian Constitution, Art 21). If the constitution does not make it clear enough, there is also an article in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights defining that education is a universal human right (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art 26). Girls are not receiving equal access to primary education in rural India and therefore are not achieving equality.

In this report, I want to focus on rural India and will examine the main reasons why girls have been kept away from receiving a complete primary education.

Limited access to laws and rights

The laws governing education in India are remarkably similar to the laws of western nations.  These laws are accessible to the citizens of India, but many of the citizens are unsure of how to properly live them out and where to go with complaints. Complaints usually fall on deaf ears and the citizen is told that there is equal access but that they are not fully utilizing it. It is a catch-22 situation.

In addition to national laws, there are also international laws that also govern these states. These laws, however, are harder to access for the average citizen. The citizens are only able to access these laws through local NGOs. However, the NGOs are not usually located in rural India. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has a clear article outlining that the access to education is a basic human right (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art 26). These declarations should give more power to the government to provide access to education to all children.

Education is the crux

The impact of education on girls is extraordinary. Education sustains human values. It forms the foundation for learning and critical thinking. Education also provides skills for girls to become more self-reliant and provides them with more opportunities. Thinking into the future, education also provides them with the knowledge to manage health problems. A girl understanding her own body can make the difference between an unwanted pregnancy and an illegal abortion. Having the knowledge beforehand is crucial to saving and protecting lives.

Education does impact human development, as mentioned, along with economic development but the greatest impact is on democracy. Education is the only way a girl can be an informed citizen, leading the way for her to having her voice heard in society.  Education also provides a better overall quality of life. Research has shown the life expectancy rises by as two years for every one percent increase literacy (U.S. Census Bureau 1998). When women have a voice there can be changes made to existing laws changing the future for young girls.

photo credit: Flickr, karathepirate

4 reasons why girls are pulled out of school

The first reason why girls are pulled out of school is because of family responsibilities. Girls provide free labor at home for the family. Home is also where they learn to be a better housewife. Many girls are kept at home because it is a better payoff than going to school. Having the girl attend school is not valuable to the whole family. This problem is lucidly evident in India, even in urban areas, but more prevalent with poorer families. Girls can be found doing everything from farm work to household chores.

The family plays a central role in a girl’s life and shaping her future. Respect is given to elders in all situations and no decision can be made without consulting an elder. This often leads to the practice of arranged marriages. The decision is entirely up to the family and the girl often does not even see her future husband until the day of the wedding. Compared to American norms, individuals growing up in India are much more dependent on their families, especially parents.

The second reason why girls are kept from receiving a primary education is because they are pulled out early to protect family honor. This also can affect the dowry when the girl is married. The boy’s side of the family can raise the dowry if they suspect she has been in school with boys during puberty. The practice of dowry is illegal, but laws are not always implemented. If the dowry cannot be paid, the bride runs the risk of being ruined, or worse, being killed. Honor killings are prevalent among the poor.

The third reason for inequality during primary education is because girls can’t attend school due to inadequate facilities. Schools are unable to provide safe and sanitary facilities for young girls to attend, and with the population increasing at a rapid speed the priority for new facilities is given to boys. In many cases, though, this is exacerbated by basic infrastructural problems: roads, running water, and electricity are often scarce.

The fourth reason girls are kept from school is because of the shortage of female teachers. The problem can be solved, but it starts with first educating girls so they can aspire to be teachers. The government, however, does not see this as a problem and continues to deny that there is gender inequality within the education sector. There have been efforts, as listed earlier, by the government to enroll more girls but this has not been for the nation of India, but rather for international recognition and numbers.

The Solution

All of these contribute to the issue of unequal access to education for girls along with many more issues. These four issues have many underlying issues that contribute to the overall problem. And to solve this issue we can look to three conclusions: NGOs and nonprofits, and the government’s response.

First, NGOs and nonprofits can offer the most helpful solution to this problem because of grassroots movements across rural India. Many of the past efforts have come from reviewing previous reports. NGOs and nonprofits work at a local scale where a difference can made, whereas the government has worked on a larger scale with less success.

Second, the government’s response can help the whole process of providing primary schools for girls. The Indian government has recognized the problem has been slow to act on the issue. As mentioned earlier, education is not a priority for the government right now; rather the government is focused on the economy. Without girls being involved in the future economy, the government is taking a risk and putting the issue off for another generation.

Be a part of the solution. Jolkona is focused on providing mentorship and training to young social entrepreneurs who seek to create solutions that address things like education and women empowerment through a social accelerator program called Jolkona Catalyst. Join us in supporting the next generation of leaders by volunteering or by making a donation to the Jolkona Catalyst program.

Your gift will allow Jolkona to expand the Catalyst program to other parts of the world. This program has had a significant impact on the young leaders we have already invited. You can help us achieve our mission of accelerating positive social change by empowering even more young social entrepreneurs around the world. Let’s turn small acts into big impacts!

 

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Image credit: http://susanpolgar.blogspot.com

Women have been ethically and emotionally suppressed throughout history. But even today, women make up 70% of those who are living in poverty. This is likely due to women’s shrinking employment rates over the years. 66% of illiterate adults are women as well. Tony Cade Bambara said, “revolution begins with the self, in the self.” Empowerment can fuel an entire community when one person decides that what they have to say is important. Amidst such inequality and lack of resources, women continue to transcend difficulties with grace,attitude, and determination. It is notwonder why March 8 is a day dedicated to lighting your revolution of the self. Join Jolkona and I in celebrating the power of the human voice and what we are capable of:International Women’s Day is here!

International Women’s Day began as a social and political event designed to bring greater awareness of the need for women to have equal rights among men. Over decades of monumental change, the meaning behind this day has grown into so much more than just a governmental responsibility: each person who celebrates brings a unique aspect to what International Women’s Day truly means.

International Women’s Day Australina recorded thousand of people’s reactions and ideas about what this day means to them. Here is one such voice:

International Women’s Day is now, of course, a day of celebration. A day when women can get together, celebrate being women– all [that] they’ve come through with a reminder of how much further there still is to go. I know that International Women’s Day didn’t start that way, it started as part of an industrial struggle[;] while there’s still a lot of struggling to be done I think there should be a strong emphasis on celebration.

Here at Jolkona, we believe that recognizing today is vital for the advancement of women, and for celebrating the power women have brought and will continue to bring to our planet.

With CRAVE and women@google by our side, the Give2Girls campaign is our revolution to generating dynamic awareness and change within global communities. We are providing girls and women on every inch of planet Earth with a chance to grow confident, grow strong, and grow wise. No matter which Give2Girls project excites you, we will match your donation made on the site up to $500 per person until our $6,000 match runs out! Find your favorite project to give to on the Give2Girls campaign page.

Did we mention you will receive proofs for both of the donations? Share your story with family and friends when we update you with how your generous impact has transformed a woman’s life.

We would like to thank our very own volunteer Zanoon Nissar for spear-heading the campaign this year and raising our matching fund! Check out her video to learn why she believes in this campaign:

RSVP for our virtual event and help tell your friends about the Give2Girls campaign.

Get a Give2Girls gift card for a friend.

Follow us and share our updates on Facebook.

Tweet using the #give2girls hashtag.


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Note from the editor: this post was written by the brilliant Nancy Xu, one of our dedicated Jolkona volunteers.

My hands run through the pasadizo, a rectangular weaving the Andean women wear across their back. The yarn, made of alpaca, feels soft; yet at the same time, the tight weaving lends it strength. The edges curve up slightly. I think about its creator – the hand which dyed each bundle of yarn, the colors of which are all natural, like carcass of beetle (red), or plant fungus (turquoise). I think about each individual weave being made, row by row, as patterns and designs emerge. It felt repetitive but meticulous. It felt overwhelming. It felt precious.

“They can tell who created each piece,” Kaitlyn says. “There is a distinct signature to each weave found in the patterns and in the choice of symbols.”

“Just like a painting,” I interpret; Kaitlyn nods.

Kaitlyn Bohlin is a program director at Awamaki, a group that aims to preserve the art of weaving in a sustainable manner. Based in the small town Ollantaytambo, Peru, a stop off place for trekkers en route to Machu Picchu, “awamaki” means weaving hands in Quechua, the language spoken by the inhabitants of the Andes mountains. While their store is located in Ollantaytambo, they work from the mountain villages of Patacancha and Parobamba. These villages are incredibly remote, located at very high-altitudes. At this time of the year, though, the road up is washed out by landslides. The next visit won’t be possible until the wet season passes.

A single piece of weaving can take a month to finish. This is because most weavers are women, who have to spend a significant amount of their time attending to family duties – cooking, feeding, making fires, or planting potatoes in the field. The Andean weaving is done with a back-strap loom. This is a portable device which the women can carry on their backs, allowing them to gather with other women, where they can work together and socialize. However, most of the weaving is still done at home, and it can be quite the family activity – the child may unwind the yarn, and the father help to stretch it across the loom.

Not until I am on my way back to North America do I learn that the Andean weavings are more than just paintings. Karen Lizarraga, who sits next to me as I’m flying out of Lima, is a professor at the University of Lima, and spent many years undertaking archeology projects in the ancient Andean culture of Ayacucho, not too far from Ollantaytambo.

“They are narratives,” Karen tells me.

So they are knowledge and stories, weaved onto pasadizos, belts and scarves. They narrate the ethics of the Andean people, their belief in mother earth, and medicinal knowledge about plants and healing. One particular piece that Karen studied told a story of feminine ethics; a story of resistance against the seduction of the mountain spirit, Wamani. She also told me about the unkunakuchka, a pervasive symbol found not only in weaving but on numerous Andean relics. It is a depiction of two birds conjoined at the mouth –  a symbol of nurturing, of motherly or fatherly love. For those who recognize it, their reaction is instinctual, and one that is full of meaning.

As the cabin lights on the plane are dimmed by the crew, I lean back into my seat and wonder how many more layers there are to unveil within this rich heritage of weaving. What other messages are hidden in the weaves, lost in translation as their storytellers pass away? For the fate of the art of weaving hangs perilously in the balance, caught between its ancient roots and an uncertain future. I’m encouraged, though, that organizations like Awamaki exist, actively preserving a dying art in a shrinking culture. And that there are archaeologists like Karen, who dedicate their lives in search of the missing layers of meaning, which would otherwise be lost in the passing of generations.

Find out more about Awamaki: awamaki.org & jolkona.org/projects/160

Participate in our Jolkona campaign for Awamaki here.

Read more about the narratives in the weaving by Karen Lizarraga here.

For other posts about Nancy’s trip with Jolkona to South America, see her tumblr profile. You can also keep up to date with us on Facebook.

 

Note from the editor: this post was written by Jolkona volunteer Zanoon Nissar, sent all the way from Manuas, Brazil.

Our second partner visit in Brazil was in Manaus, the largest city in the province of Amazon. After driving through the poorer regions of the city, we came to ADCAM, a multi-faceted school with apprenticeship, college, high school and youth programs. When we arrived, we couldn’t believe how beautiful the campus looked compared with the rest of Manaus. There were well kept gardens, acres of land, and happy students walking through the halls. This was clearly a special place in the city and we were about to find out why.

We first spent some time with students from the vocational program. They were between the ages of 14-17 and were part of an electronics repair program. Since there are a lot of electronics factories in Manaus, the demand for skilled repair workers is high and pays well. These students are very busy, spending 4 hours a week in an placed internship (generally at one of the local factories), attend ADCAM one day a week, and go to  regular school as well. The program opens the children’s eyes to their potential, and many end up using the money they save from their internships to go to college.

What impressed me most about ADCAM was both the passion of its director, as well as the way it has grown and developed around the needs of the Manaus community. Their director was an Iranian woman who had immigrated to Manaus over 25 years ago. She didn’t speak any Portguese at the time, was pregnant and yet had a goal of opening a small daycare. She overcame hurdle after hurdle to grow the daycare into a school, and then an apprenticeship program, and finally a college. Now, over 5,000 students attend the school every year. If you ask their founder how she made this possible, she references her belief in love, faith and God.

It will be fascinating to see where ADCAM will be in 5 years. As the Olympics and World Cup approach, there will be a boom in tourism and hospitality. In the past, ADCAM has grown to fit the needs of its community, and I anticipate that this will be no exception. The biggest potential investment here would be in the teaching of English. Another area that ADCAM will need to explore will be the environment. Finding a fine balance between preserving the nation’s rainforests and expanding will be key.

To help support this amazing school, Jolkona is soon to be partnering with the Mona Foundation, a Seattle based non-profit.  The Mona foundation funds vocational and primary school scholarships for ADCAM. Please support ADCAM here.

 

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